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Archive for the ‘Query Letters’ Category

In the writing process, most specifically the querying process, writers’ self-doubt is at an all time high.  After you’ve given all you can into a project that has consumed your life for the last 6 months to 6 years, you now put it out there for the world to judge.  So what ends up happening when rejected?  Some people get angry.  Some people take to the internet.  And some people go after the people who rejected them — agents.

Most do not do this literally.  Although in 2012 there was some crazy asshole who did do this literally and trended on Twitter.  Some rejected writers take to their blogs, twitter statuses, and random comment sections to rail against the agents who rejected them.  I never understand this.  Even as a person who has received rejection, I really don’t get hating the messenger.  Yeah, it sucks.  Sure.  Get a grip and go back to work.  Shit, if it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone write a book?  And then how special would you feel when you did it?  It’s like the Looper movie all over again.  (Okay, I know that’s a stretch.  I just saw it and it’s on my mind.  Oh, that terrible scene with the limbs haunts me.)

To combat this unjustified hate, I spread rational love with royal icing.  New Leaf Literary is an agency of very generous people.  They dispense advice through their Tumblr, chat it up on Twitter, and provide encouragement through their WriteOnCon keynote speech.  Do they have to do this?  No.  Does it take time to do this?  Tons, I’m sure.  Then why would they do this?  To help those writers out there still receiving rejections.  Hey that’s you fucko who’s about to write some scathing comment about how they’re ruining publishing with gatekeeping.

Here’s to you New Leaf Literary for being awesome.  Thank you for taking the time to help us all.  Even the fuckos.  It’s appreciated by many.

new leaf_finale

Author’s note:  No, the cookies aren’t a bribe.  No, I did not send them with my query.  No, they aren’t a gimmick to go with my current WIP.  They are only a genuine thank you.

Author’s note #2:  I fought every urge in my body to title this post with a cliché.  Out of respect for the pretty cool people the blog post is about, I silenced all my witty one liners.  Seriously though, if they were witty, they would’ve made the title.

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One thing I have picked up along this writing journey is the importance of community.  As with any grouping of people where there are nosey women (like me) they just can’t wait to meddle and hook up all the singles in the area.  Right, Spinster?  The book lover population is kinda the same way; like a blind dating service where you match up people on what they say are their likes and dislikes. When you read something great, you can’t wait to tell all your reading friends who are in between books about the next greatest thing.

Agent extraordinaire Meredith Barnes is having a fabulous contest on her blog on getting the word out about some of their clients.  They have books that are out of print, but making their way to the e-book route.  Her contest is about getting their profile out there so the match-making can begin.  Because she’s so awesome, she’s coming in as the wing-woman.  She’s offering a query critique so introductions can be made.  Yes, that’s damn cool.  But is that the reason why I’m writing a blog?  Okay, well, maybe a little.  But more the reason because we should all support each other.  Writers and readers should work together to make sure more book love  can be spread.  If there is someone who needs a little more Internet time to be seen by a new audience, other writers should join the call and help them out.

Here are the authors Meredith is talking about:

  • Deborah Camp  (A mix of contemporary and Old West Historical romances…over 40 coming in the near future, but here is a list of 10 or so available now)
  • Lorena Dureau  (Historical Romance: American Colonial South and West. Very Sexy)
  • Dan Streib  (thrillers with a James-Bond-meets-Anderson-Cooper main character)
  • Barbara Keesling (her too-hot-to-blog nonfiction is here, here, and here)

What do I want you to do about it?  Start setting people up, of course.  Do you know someone who is a nice PTA wife who’s ready to do the dirty in the bedroom like a crazed Angelina Jolie?  (Oh yeah, you know she’s freaky.)  Then set her up with Barbara Keesling.  She sounds like she’s got some interesting tricks under the sheets next to the whips and chains.  Do you have a friend who loves the cowboys and saddling up romance?  Tell them about Deborah Camp.  The description of “thrillers with a James-Bond-meets-Anderson-Cooper main character” is enough to pique interest in what Dan Steib has to say.  Maybe your girlfriend has a fantasy of a candle lit dinner alone with Abe Lincoln?  Then Lorena Doreau may be your fancy.  (Okay, I really didn’t have anything better to describe Historical Romance…I failed History.)

It doesn’t mean everyone is going to be a match, but it does open the dating reading circle for choices to make sure you find the perfect match.  If we didn’t have each other looking for the next author who is right in line with what you long for in a book, we’d never get to expand our horizons.  You never know when you are going to find the diamond in the rough or make an instant reading love connection.

Oh, by the way, if you decide this blog is so great and you want to link to it, could you share in the comments?  That query contest, uh…yeah, it helps me with that, too.

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Yesterday, two women on my staff were discussing the troubles in Egypt.  I ducked behind my computer like I normally do when religious, political, social issues come up between staff members.  My only concern when volatile conversations pop up on my team is to keep a safe distance from necessary “coachings” or “corrective actions.”  I block out opinionated rants by scrolling through mind-numbing emails.  But, my ears did perk up when one asked the other “Are you ready for the rapture?” 

While their conversation continued down the road of religious beliefs, mine veered to what’s important to finish before I’m…well, finished.  Here I am fretting about a novel revision when doom is right around the corner.  It only makes sense to get together my thoughts in the way I know how…a to-do list.

1.)     Revise novel to make sure my last written work on this Earth is the best representation I can create.  With all the excitement of the last couple days, the concern of “What if they don’t like it?” plagues my thoughts when reading each line of the Work in Progress.  A friend snapped me back to reality by reminding me this is the story I want to tell.  Making sure I keep true to what I am is the only way I can ensure when an agent does like it, they will be perfect for me.

2.)    Write a successful query letter.  Similar to the search for the Holy Grail, I imagine myself suited up like Indiana Jones, bullwhip and all, trudging through thick juggles, deciphering complicated riddles, and even having to face those damn snakes.  All with the hope I will meet some old knight, choose the most non-descript cup, and save my dad, Sean Connery from death.  Okay, that’s a different story, but having a happy ending is the same.  (Ha!  She said happy ending.) 

3.)    Party with like a rock star.  With impending doom around the corner, I’m glad I scheduled a concert this weekend.  Since my picture with Anna from The Airborne Toxic Event, my night with Todd from Toad the Wet Sprocket and running into Ezra from Vampire Weekend at the hotel, I’ve come to assume I will be hanging out with the members of the bands I go to see.  I have high hopes of continuing the fantasy on Saturday with Atomic Tom.

Update:  My pick with lead singer Luke from Atomic Tom!  Yay! 

4.)    Get my mom to read my blog.  What seems like the easiest task and should have been checked off months ago, this may prove to be the most challenging of all.  She is convinced hitting the subscribe button will somehow sign her up for Facebook.  When I try to explain the impossibility of that conspiracy, she lectures me in a raised tone about the seriousness of identity theft.  She then goes on about how my brother-in-law e-mails his blogs.  (Uh, yeah, he probably stole her identity, created an account in her name, and signed her up for numerous porn sites.)

The list might be small, and of course I’ve left out the obvious of spending quality time with my family, but it’s the stuff I’d like to knock off first.  But I must say I’m pretty pissed I have to move up the date.  All this was calendared by December 2012.  When are these Armageddons going to get on the same page?

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Today I had a great phone call with an agent’s assistant.  You woulda thought it was “the call” the way I danced around the room and gushed to everyone in my phone book.  (“The call” is a famous saying for when an agent calls to offer representation.) Although, it wasn’t “the call,” it was pretty damn cool having thirty-five minutes face-to-face over the computer with Meredith Barnes.

Meredith is an assistant to the “Query Shark” at FinePrint Literary Management, another famous known thing about the writing world.  Go ahead, Google it and be in awe.  I was lucky enough to enter a funny enough line in one of her contests to win a fifteen minute Skype chat about social media.  I’ve been anxiously waiting for this day for two weeks trying to figure out different ways to win Meredith over as my new BFF. 

As requested, I sent five questions a few days ago about social media.  I agonized to make sure they were light, but professional and serious, but funny.  I wanted to make sure I represented the real me to my new potential BFF, so of course one of the questions involved profanity.  (Okay Mom, roll your eyes.) 

After some technical issues in the beginning, and my full-fledged panic attack because of it, we were finally able to see each other.  Immediately she stole my heart by complimenting the red wall in my kitchen.  <swoon>  When the next sentence she said was we could talk about anything to start; like queries, agents, the publishing world, I fell deeply and madly in love.  After stuttering an unintelligible sentence, I asked her “Who do I believe?”  I’ve visited the writing boards and read all the blogs, but find I’m more lost than ever on query letters.  So what does Meredith do?  She asks me to read what I have.  It was full cardiac arrest.  My mind rushed through all the excuses such as I’m still working on it, it’s not ready for other eyes yet, I want to put my best foot forward…but one second later, I pull it up and read the words.

It was fabulous; a dream come true.  Meredith gave me some great tips and new wind in my sails.  Self-doubt plaguing my mind the last weeks was replaced by rejuvenated excitement to get back on the project. 

We did talk about social media and I’m in the process of getting on Twitter.  Boy, do I feel like a jackass stumbling through it.  But I’m sure soon I will be just as addicted to it as I am Facebook.  Meredith graciously extended the fifteen minutes to a total of forty (including our technical difficulties.)  She was funny, friendly, and super nice.  I could only think if she is this nice to some chick who won her contest, could you imagine how she treats her clients?  I only hope one day I can find out.

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The query letter is a dreaded topic for any writer wanting to get an agent and then published.  I have read blogs where seasoned authors dreaded condenscing their gut wrenching novel into two paragraphs on a one page letter.  This being the letter that makes or breaks if you get an agent. 

I worked my letter for the original push of Crescendo.  I read the how-to’s and what should and shouldn’t be in it.  I studied the craft and wrote my first query letter.  Out of about 14 sent, I had one partial request, one full request, and mostly rejections.  I took a couple months off of querying and went back to studying.  I signed up for a blog site that has a category of “Query Letter Hell.”  I posted, got shredded by others, and went back to the drawing board.  Alas, I had another (and improved in my mind) version.  And so it was mailed out…

Here were are after about 10 more queries have been sent.  To date, I have about 6 rejections (which feel like 100) and one partial.  I’m back to the insecure, baffled stage of is it the query or the story?  Is it because I don’t have any vampires, fairies, or werewolves?  Is it because the letter falls flat and doesn’t sound like someone would want to invest a couple of days to read?  Or is it the reason I can not even discuss yet?

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After months of no positive interest from endless query letters, I received a request for a partial yesterday.  This is an amazing feat for me.  My confidence was low and I started to question if that writing project was going to be hidden forever.  That still may be the case, but this is a glimmer of hope.  The other thing it brought was a question from my sister, “What do you want more?  To be published or to get paid?”  Good question.

Last night on one of the writing boards, other authors wrote about a seven-figure deal for a debut author.  They were appalled and speculated that the pressure would be too much.  They went on to say they wouldn’t want the awesome deal because it may interfere with their writing career.  This thought is asinine.  That one payout could be a salary for a lifetime and probably more than most writers would ever see.  Knowing this, my answer to the question above would lean towards money.

Next stop is the Facebook boards.  The thing that started all my insecurity about not following a dream.  More specifically, the fear of not doing anything “special” with my life.  Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed for my terrific life.  I am grateful every day and I don’t take it for granted.  But there is still that small inner voice that wants more than ordinary.  It’s talked down off the ledge with reason about how I’m one out of a handful of couple who haven’t experienced divorce.   (That’s with meeting my soul mate at 18.)  No easy task.  Also, I have healthy children who appear to like me for the moment and they are remarkable.  I know all these things…but I want special.  Maybe that is better termed “published.”

So, what’s the answer?  It’s the answer to all these types of questions.  I want both…my cake and eat it too.   I want to work hard and drink the success like a great Gin and Tonic.  To have the fulfillment of publication while supporting the above mentioned people who make me grateful.  Hopefully it’s possible and without too much pain.  Because the silence of no requests, and the thought of having to abandoned those characters I love, is heartbreaking.

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